Hitler as a soldier in the First World War

July 1, 1916 France

At the start of the First World War, Adolf Hitler volunteered for the German army with enthusiasm. He was assigned to the ground troops on the Western Front. As a courier, he conveyed messages from the leadership to the front. The work was dangerous, but much less so than that of the soldiers at the front. In December 1914, Hitler received the Iron Cross, second class, for his bravery. In a letter to his old landlord, he wrote: ‘It was the happiest day of my life.’

On 5 October 1916, he was wounded by shrapnel. Five months later, he was back on the Western Front. Half of Hitler's regiment was wounded or killed during attacks in April 1918, but he was not. Hitler received his second decoration, the Iron Cross, first class - possibly through the intercession of a Jewish officer.

When Germany lost the war in November 1918, Hitler was in a military hospital. His eyes had been hurt in a poison gas attack. The news of the German surrender plunged him into a deep crisis. Hitler's war experiences had a great influence on his life and thinking. In the aftermath of the war, he became radicalised and went into politics.